After the April uprising was followed by inter-ethnic violence, the Uzbek-heavy city of Osh is entrenching practices that make it near-impossible for Uzbek families to make a living
An ethnic Uzbek child helps to rebuild houses, destroyed during ethnic clashes, in the city of Osh / Reuters
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- "What is it like to lose everything?" An Uzbek man asked me over tea last week, his brow crinkled in obvious anguish. "Your wife killed, your daughter raped, your store smashed, your home burned down? What would you do?"
We were sitting in a bucolic place: a narrow, swiftly moving stream nearby gave a gentle burble while birds tweeted above us. The chaikhana, or teahouse, where we were eating lunch was nestled in the outskirts of Osh city, in an Uzbek neighborhood, called a mahallah. Narimon had invited me in this mahallah when he saw me taking pictures of some ruined buildings in the main city market. Narimon isn't his real name, but like most Uzbeks here he is unwilling to speak on the record for fear of reprisal from the Kyrgyzstan government, which is dominated, like the country itself, by the ethnic Kyrgyz majority.
Last summer, crowds of young Kyrgyz men turned these Uzbek mahallahs into scenes of horrifying violence in what people here now call "The June Events" or even "The War." Over the course of about 72 hours in June 2010, upwards of 2,000 people were killed, thousands more were beaten and raped, thousands of buildings and homes were torched, and nearly 100,000 Uzbeks fled across the border toward Andijon in nearby Uzbekistan.
The sudden onset of this violence caught many people here by surprise. There was always some tension between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities: the Uzbeks dominated the business community of Osh, and the Kyrgyz dominated the politics. But until the April Revolution last year, which saw the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, there hadn't been much violence since the 1990 riots, part of a paroxysm of ethnic violence that accompanied the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
"Thirty years ago, there were no Kyrgyz here," Narimon said. "When they'd come down from the mountains, we'd beat them on their donkeys." He made a disgusted gesture. "Now, they beat us. Kill us. This is how it goes."
Almost every Uzbek you find in Osh has a heartbreaking story of tragedy: homes burned down, family members beaten to death in the street. The local government response has worsened the injustice. The Uzbeks who didn't lose everything in the riots and fires now face a predatory local government that threatens them unless they sign over controlling stakes of their businesses to Kyrgyz. I found several restaurants and cafes run by Kyrgyz that had been owned by Uzbeks before the June Events.
What followed the June violence was economic dislocation on a massive scale: tens of thousands of people, thousands of families have been thrown into chaos, and can't rebuild their lives so long as they must give half of their earnings over to the Kyrgyz. The response by NGOs and UN agencies here has been inadequate as well. While UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which works in Osh) is very skilled at disaster relief, none of the agencies operating in this city have been able to address the fundamental social and economic problems that stem from the June Events.
"These NGOs mean well," Adilya told me. She lost her shop when a gang of Kyrgyz men smashed in her windows, stole all of her inventory and cash, and set her home on fire. "But they hire mostly Kyrgyz to work for them. I can't tell them a Kyrgyz is harassing me."
These NGOs have helped to fund a recovery effort, channeled through the local Kyrgyz-dominated government that Uzbeks feel so uncomfortable approaching for help. Most directly affected businesses have received a credit for rebuilding equivalent to about $1,000. The Kyrgyz I spoke to think this should be enough to fix a few broken windows. The Uzbeks complain that it's not enough if their business was burned to the ground, and besides which the money goes to Kyrgyz businesses first.
Some Kyrgyz businesses were affected as well. I spoke with one restaurant owner whose store was in the path of the rioters: his windows were broken, and the looters stole almost everything inside except the oven. It took nearly 11 months to find new suppliers, repair the damage, and re-open for business. On that same block, however, Uzbek businesses remain burned out husks, never rebuilt and never reoccupied.
It's difficult to look at the current situation and see hope. The Uzbeks have been systematically excluded or pushed out of public life. Most of the Uzbek men I spoke to stayed in their mahallah, afraid to be harassed by the Kyrgyz police. Most of the shoppers and low-level workers at the market are women, since they're less likely to be targeted. The Kyrgyz, on the other hand, insist there are no problems and Osh is a city picking itself up by its own bootstraps. I asked one Kyrgyz man at a political rally for Adahan Madumarov, a presidential candidate, if he thought the tension between communities was a big deal. "You know those Uzbeks," he said dismissively. "They exaggerate everything. They just want UN money."
Kyrgyz here control the government, and the fear Uzbeks feel for the future is palpable. But this is no simple case of ethnic cleansing. The tension here is economic, and has its roots in the very design of the Soviet Union, of Stalin's ethnic policies in the 1930s. By the time Gorbachev introduced market reforms in the 1980s, the Uzbeks, who are traditionally merchants and farmers, controlled a majority of the commercial activity in this little corner of Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz, meanwhile, who were more reliant on animal husbandry, were impoverished by the reforms. The situation only grew worse in the 1990s. Over Kyrgyzstan's first ten years of independence, the country's per capita GDP shrank by 54 percent.
The Uzbeks affected by the June Events are desperate for justice, but they don't know where it can come from. The Kyrgyz control the courts, the police, and the mayor's office. Bishkek is wrapped up in the Presidential election and doesn't want a distraction down south. More than one Uzbek spoke, darkly, of the need to get "personal justice" for what happened. The Kyrgyz, meanwhile, seem to think the Uzbeks are just whining and should get back to work.
Meanwhile, the economic dislocation continues. Every Uzbek with money has either left or is planning to leave for Russia (the only country that will take them in any number). While many businesses have been restored, with a Kyrgyz face, the whole region is in a depression: incomes are down, many businesses are facing mounting debts, and the divisions between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities seems to be growing by the day. It is difficult to see a future for Osh that doesn't end in disaster.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
As the world frets over Greece, a separate crisis looms in China.
This summer has not been calm for the global economy. In Europe, a Greek referendum this Sunday may determine whether the country will remain in the eurozone. In North America, meanwhile, the governor of Puerto Rico claimed last week that the island would be unable to pay off its debts, raising unsettling questions about the health of American municipal bonds.
But the season’s biggest economic crisis may be occurring in Asia, where shares in China’s two major stock exchanges have nosedived in the past three weeks. Since June 12, the Shanghai stock exchange has lost 24 percent of its value, while the damage in the southern city of Shenzhen has been even greater at 30 percent. The tumble has already wiped out more than $2.4 trillion in wealth—a figure roughly 10 times the size of Greece’s economy.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation.
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
In Sunday’s referendum, voters firmly rejected Europe’s plan to bail out the country’s economy. What’s next?
Updated on July 5, 2015 4:57 pm
On Sunday, Greek citizens took to the polls in a controversial referendum asking them whether they support a plan calling for continued economic austerity in exchange for debt relief. Their answer—with more than 70 percent of the votes counted—was a resounding “no.”The outcome means that next steps for the nation, which has fallen into arrears with the IMF and imposed capital controls to prevent a run on the banks, is largely uncertain. According to reports from Reuters, the country may next attempt to secure financing by asking for more emergency funding from the European Central Bank.
The referendum—which had asked Greeks to vote “yes” or “no” on a proposal from Eurogroup leaders to extend financing to the deeply indebted country— was called for by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras amid meetings of Eurozone leaders trying to come up with a deal to allow the country to avoid default. The call for the referendum effectively ended those discussions.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
An attorney who helped players file a gender-discrimination lawsuit over artificial turf in the World Cup proposes a way forward for the sport.
On Sunday, players from the U.S. and Japan’s women’s soccer teams will step onto the field in Vancouver to compete for the sport’s greatest achievement: the World Cup. But perhaps the bigger battle—one that started well before the final match and will continue well after—isn’t about a trophy or national glory. Women’s soccer teams have long fought for recognition and respect not just from the public, but also from the male organizers of the sport, and it’s a struggle symbolized by the very fields they’ve been playing on.
The co-hosts of the World Cup—FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association—failed to stage this year’s tournament to be played on real grass like every other World Cup previously, mandating that it be played on artificial turf instead. This is despite the dangers and inconveniences plastic turf poses. The synthetic pitches bake in the sun, with surface temperatures sometimes reaching 120 degrees. Clouds of rubber pebbles fly into players’ eyes, and the turf makes it difficult for the women to gauge the way the ball will bounce.
Former Senator Jim Webb is the fifth Democrat to enter the race—and by far the most conservative one.
In a different era’s Democratic Party, Jim Webb might be a serious contender for the presidential nomination. He’s a war hero and former Navy secretary, but he has been an outspoken opponent of recent military interventions. He’s a former senator from Virginia, a purple state. He has a strong populist streak, could appeal to working-class white voters, and might even have crossover appeal from his days as a member of the Reagan administration.
In today’s leftward drifting Democratic Party, however, it’s hard to see Webb—who declared his candidacy Thursday—getting very far. As surprising as Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls has been, he looks more like the Democratic base than Webb does. The Virginian is progressive on a few major issues, including the military and campaign spending, but he’s far to the center or even right on others: He's against affirmative action, supports gun rights, and is a defender of coal. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats loved to have him as a foil to the White House. It’s hard to imagine the national electorate will cotton to him in the same way. Webb’s statement essentially saying he had no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying in places like the grounds of the South Carolina capitol may have been the final straw. (At 69, he’s also older than Hillary Clinton, whose age has been a topic of debate, though still younger than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.)